Winnipeg, Man. (September 8, 2022) - The letter below is my response to the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) regarding its Civic Priorities Recommendations and Questionnaire for the 2022 City of Winnipeg Mayoral Election.
Response to the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) – August 25, 2022
Our campaign, Kevin Klein for Mayor, is very aware of the state of infrastructure in Winnipeg and is extremely in touch with the current economic conditions and the global headwinds associated with financial markets, Covid-19, and the various international conflicts in Europe and Asia. This is not a simple time, and even if it was simple Winnipeg would still have challenges in financing its enormous infrastructure deficit.
I will note that I am the only nominated mayoral candidate with extensive experience in the corporate realm outside of government. I have worked as a corporate executive and vice-president, as a small business owner, and as an international consultant in Business to Government (B2G) relations at locations across North America, South America, and Europe.
I understand the perspectives of industry executives, boards of directors, and the many employees who depend on corporate initiatives for their work and financial security.
In addition, I have the benefit of completing a 4 year term as a Councillor which included 4 years of leadership on the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development, Heritage, and Downtown Development (commonly called PPD), which approved over 200 new developments and several large area plans including over $1 billion in local area investment and associated economic returns for the population, tax base, and heavy construction industry.
I have developed significant insight into the financial abilities of the City, the status of infrastructure projects, future plans, and the various limitations in budgeting and taxation. Most importantly, I have identified the governance and administrative roadblocks which are to blame for the infrastructure deficit, and which are preventing increased investment to address the issues.
To answer MHCA’s questions directly (labelled in order which they were asked):
1. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being of highest priority), how do you rank the importance of economic growth for Winnipeg? Briefly explain your reasons.
My plans are to set the city on a path for a healthier, more prosperous, and affluent lifestyle for ALL residents. Kevin Klein for Mayor is an inclusive campaign and inclusivity is the path we will set for the city. ALL residents, especially frontline workers, must benefit from City investments into the local economy.
Statistics Canada data shows over 29,000 people left the province (mostly from Winnipeg) over the past 4 years.
Although I would say the concept of “economic growth” is a high priority, we are not a growing City. We are shrinking. This must be admitted and examined.
I won’t come out smiling and say we have no problems. My focus will be to address the reason why people are leaving and to retain existing residents. This is priority one, especially with the developing economic headwinds. Once we have addressed the issues associated with disappearing residents and businesses, then the City will be set on a path for growth.
2. Briefly, outline your vision for generating sustained economic growth for the City of Winnipeg
a. How do you see Winnipeg working as part of the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region?
b. In your mind, what are the priorities of the Capital Region?
c. What/where are the greatest opportunities for economic growth in the Region?
d. How do you see Centre Port Canada South’s development as part of the city/regional growth plan?
Economic growth must be sustainable. To be sustainable we must be accountable and transparent in the management of City finances.
Did you know that the City doesn’t complete detailed Cost Benefit Analysis or Return on Investment calculations for any of its projects? Over the past 4 years, I have asked repeatedly to see these details yet have never had one presented.
As Mayor, I will change this with urgency. All projects will require significant financial analysis presented to Council. Financial decision making will be modernized to ensure every dollar is spent with purpose for top value.
With the implementation of detailed Cost Benefit Analysis and Return on Investment Calculations, the city will be able to demonstrate with accuracy the value and reasoning behind projects. Which can enhance the ability to secure provincial and federal funding for large investments in infrastructure work.
Working with the Capital Region is very important. Winnipeg and the surrounding region must grow together in collaboration, not in our own independent bubbles. Our growth plans must be connected and interlinked. When the RMs benefit, the City must also benefit, and vice versa.
As an example, I worked very closely with the RM of Headingly on the proposals for the development of John Blumberg Golf Course through a capital region lens. Instead of selling off the land to an independent developer for little benefit to the City, we convinced the Council of the importance of close partnering with the RM of Headingly to find a shared vision that benefits the populations and growth of both municipalities.
Centre Port Canada South and the Airport Area West are other cross-jurisdictional examples which I have dealt with over my 4 years as a member of the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development, Heritage, and Downtown Development. I look forward to continued discussions on these areas in the upcoming term, especially with respect to long term buildout plans.
The main priority of the Capital region should be the negotiation and agreement on cost sharing and fiscal responsibility measures. Too often one municipality benefits at the expense of another. This must be acknowledged, and fair agreements reached to allow for cross-jurisdictional collaboration and planning. Again, such agreements and partnerships will enhance the ability of the city to access increased provincial and federal financing.
3. Municipalities own more than half of all public infrastructure, yet collect just 10 cents of every tax dollar
a. What are your views about pressing for a new fiscal deal with the province, and by extension the federal government?
b. Municipal infrastructure funding, in particular for roads, has been cost-shared through multi-year program funding agreements. This has changed in recent years. The four-year cost-shared agreement among the three levels of government to accelerate regional road renewal for Winnipeg ends in 2023, and the road renewal program budget will fall dramatically as a result.
i. What is your plan to ensure the participation of the province and the federal government in long-term road renewal funding agreements?
The Federal and Provincial governments can see how the City debt has quadrupled from $415 million in 2005 to $1.6 billion in 2020/21 (numbers directly taken from the City’s Financial Annual Reports). Simultaneously, in the past year the City has emptied its financial reserve accounts by $88 million – almost a 25% drop in savings over a 1-year period. At the beginning of 2021, the City’s Financial Stabilization Reserve fund was at $120 million and is now forecasted to be at $20.1 million by the end of 2022 – that’s a 85% drop, and $57 million below the City’s legal limits.
The Federal and Provincial governments can see how the city hasn’t properly managed its finances, even with an almost 20% increase in tax rates (2.33% a year) over the past 8 years.
The Federal and Provincial governments have lost confidence in how the city manages its finances, and they are unwilling to hand out money to only be mismanaged and wasted on inefficient and low return items.
The non-accountable and non-transparent fiscal management practices, without any detailed cost benefit analysis and return on investment calculations, along with out-of-control debt spending and burning of reserves funds, even while tax rates increased 20%, has shaken the trust of other levels of government in partnering with the City.
As mentioned in the previous answer, transparent and accountable fiscal planning with solid fiscal cost benefit data, return on investment metrics, and formal cross-jurisdictional agreements and collaboration will momentously strengthen the position of securing infrastructure funding from the provincial and federal governments.
The more local governments can get their ducks in a row, be organized, fiscally responsible, collaborative, and jointly in agreement the easier it will be to obtain buy-in from other levels of government or from private investors (P3).
This will allow for new agreements and financing to be reached for long-term road renewals.
4. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the highest priority), how do you rank the importance of road renewal for Winnipeg as a budget measure? Briefly explain your reason
All Winnipeg roads and bridges must be safe. I have strongly advocated for this, even though it has resulted in significant negative labelling and bashing towards me in the news media.
The contents my previous motion to address the safety issues of potholes on highspeed roadways is found at the following link. None of the prioritization efforts, metric reporting/monitoring, and strategic public awareness measures were adopted by the current Council (even though these measures are currently used by other North American cities as solutions for similar issues).
Our campaign, Kevin Klein for Mayor, places a Safer City as the number one priority. Beyond dealing with crime, this includes ensuring all infrastructure is safe. I will not tolerate structural collapses or major sinkholes and will strongly advocate for the funding to address such repairs as priorities in a new strategic infrastructure management plan developed with the co-operation of industry stakeholders and professionals.
5. Funding for transportation infrastructure –including Winnipeg’s trade corridors, responsible for moving goods to market and people to jobs –needs a long-term strategy supported by multi-year budgets and a strong asset-management plan. How would you ensure a transportation infrastructure strategy:
a. Considers and balances the needs of users --manufacturers, businesses, residents, including motorists, transit users, cyclists and pedestrians
b. Anticipates and encourages the city areas holding potential for growth and development, to support a growing tax base
c. Tests and sets out goals to meet Winnipeggers’ expectations service level, and places Winnipeg in competitive position among Canada’s major cities to attract new residents
d. Prioritizes infrastructure funding to projects with greatest return on investment
e. Identifies funding sources and sets out a goal-based implementation strategy
Our transportation system is undergoing mass change. With the implementation of video conferencing and remote work, areas such as downtown – once considered the centre of employment – are shifting from business heavy to more residential. Traditional urban corridors with a few small restaurants and shops are now experiencing development of new condominiums and apartments, with local office space, restaurants, and businesses on the ground level. Cycling and pedestrian traffic is increasing in certain regions, while decreasing in others.
Our campaign is aware of these changes. As Mayor, I would take steps to ensure City planning and infrastructure management is well funded and forward-looking considering City expansion, densification, and societal changes well into the future. The planners and managers will work in the macro-picture view of City layout, revitalization, and new area development.
Connectivity of residents to places of employment and recreation will be key, as well as the connectivity of businesses to their supply chains. I will work with Council to set directives so that when the City pursues development approvals, there is stronger consideration for the local connections to the national and international trade routes such as the Trans-Canada and U.S. bound highways, the airport cargo hub, Centerport, and the rail system. We will make it more efficient for our various key industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and aerospace to get their products to the market – which will encourage the establishment of such employers in the city. There will be a focus on revitalizing the old industrial areas and parks to new business uses or fresh residential.
As Mayor, I would continue to drive enhancements to asset-management planning to include the establishment of formal infrastructure project evaluation processes and prioritization schedules, to be ready to immediately take advantage of any federal and provincial funding opportunities. Rate of return analysis, cost benefit analysis, and the reporting of visible performance metrics will be key to funding projects to ensure best return of value for tax dollar spent. This will allow for the value saved dollars to be spent on other infrastructure projects.
6. Winnipeg adopted an annual 2% tax hike in 2013/14 for the express purpose of fixing, maintaining, and building new roads. This spring was vivid illustration of how the goals set out in the policy upon which the plan to fix our roads have strayed from their targets and over-arching goal. We are not measurably closer to getting out of the “infrastructure investment deficit”.
a. Are you familiar with the above policy that, in 2013 and then 2014, set out the financing plan to bring to a sustainable level funding local and regional street renewal?
b. How would you address the evident decay of Winnipeg’s local and regional streets?
i. How would your plan meet the needs of users, including motorists, cyclists, transit riders and pedestrians?
c. The local and regional street renewal program budget – funded through the 2% annual tax hike – has been used to fund other priorities not set out in the original ‘tax hike’ deal with Winnipeggers. For example, bridge repairs now get some funding from the roads program.
i. Do you think that’s appropriate?
ii. If not, how would you address the issue of dedicated funding for roads while meeting the funding needs of bridges?
As mentioned in answer three, I am very familiar with the annual 2.33 % tax increase, totalling almost 20% over 8 years. That means in 2022, residents are paying 20% more each year in taxes than they were in 2014.
And what have residents seen, even with such large tax increases? They have seen continuing crumbling infrastructure.
In the long term, the strategy is not to complain each and every spring. Rather as I have pointed out in questions 2. and 3., the strategy is to develop strong transparent and accountable fiscal planning with solid fiscal cost benefit data, return on investment metrics, and formal cross-jurisdictional agreements and collaboration to momentously strengthen the position of securing infrastructure funding from the provincial and federal governments.
This includes funding for not only road repairs, but bridge works, active transportation pathways (which I am a huge supporter of), and the redesign of intersections to improve pedestrian safety. Through comprehensive accountability and teamwork, we will prove to the provincial and federal governments that we are worthy of financing and can obtain high Return on Investment for each tax dollar.
Money set for infrastructure (such as the 2% or new strategy) will not be shelled out to other areas – we will stop the process of mixing accounts. Poor performing areas of the city will be held accountable for their poor performance, not bailed out.
7. Winnipeg’s roads need to be durable and reliable. That involves consideration of materials specifications used to build them, coupled with environmental and resource management considerations and impacts. The MHCA proposes formalizing that process:
a. A permanent committee – Design Specification and Resource Management Committee – be established, co-chaired by the City and industry. City representation would be drawn from Public Works, Planning and Climate Office, and industry from engineering specialists (ACEC-MB), development industry (UDI) and heavy construction (MHCA).
b. The DSRM Committee would report to IRPW at minimum twice annually, to update materials and roadbuilding standards, specification and resource management impacts.
i. Would you support the creation of such a permanent committee, mandated by council?
ii. Would you support resourcing such a committee with third-party experts to provide the research and development of new roadbuilding standard specifications?
I agree with the idea of establishing a committee of professionals with expertise in construction industry best practices, environmental best practices, and resource management best practices (such as the recycling of concrete and old roadway materials). The committee would be co-chaired by the city and industry with the aforementioned participants invited to be committee members.
I would like to see Winnipeg at the international forefront of developing infrastructure solutions for cold weather climates. Winnipeg should be a place of notable achievements in new infrastructure technologies, where visitors from around the globe come to learn and reproduce our solutions in their regions.
We will work closely with universities and other levels of government to obtain funding for leading edge research and innovation, live tested within the city in collaboration with industry. As Mayor, I would strive to completely modernize how infrastructure work is completed to ensure long term value for both residents, as well as construction business owners and their employees.
I will support the establishment of the Design Specification and Resource Management Committee.
8. Briefly, what, if anything, as mayor would you address in Winnipeg’s transportation master plan, not discussed above?
The establishment of the transportation master plan is still under public consultation and departmental analysis, and requires transparent and inclusive discussion amongst all stakeholders and Councillors.
I strongly support the funding and completion of the highest priority items currently suggested to be included in the transportation master plan. This includes:
Bicycle network upgrades targeted to be funded and started within 8 years:
o Pembina Highway o University Crescent o Sherbrook St. o Stradbook Av o River Av. o Marion St. o Fermor Av. o Arlington St. o Templeton Av.
Sidewalk network upgrades targeted to be funded and started within 8 years:
o St. Mary’s Rd.
o Kenaston Blvd.
o Logan Ave.
o Jarvis Ave.
Major roadway projects to commence as soon as financially feasible:
o Grade separated intersections along Lagimodiere
o Grade separated intersections along Bishop Grandin
o Truck Priority measures along Kenaston
o Louise Bridge replacement
o Intersection upgrade at Waverly St. and Bison Drive
In the immediate term, I support the funding and fast-tracking major projects such as the:
Pembina Highway Overpass (Bishop Grandin) Rehabilitation
Osborne Street Underpass
St. Vital Bridge Rehabilitation
Lagimodiere Twin Overpasses Rehabilitation
I am very supportive of any steps in the transportation master plan to enhance active transportation (safe pedestrian and cycling infrastructure), as well as any steps to integrate the transportation plan with the existing network of businesses.
As mentioned in the answer to question five, our manufacturing and industrial areas must be efficiently connected to the national and international trade routes such as the Trans-Canada and U.S. bound highways, the airport cargo hub, Centerport, and the rail system.
The City’s transportation infrastructure must allow residents to safely transit the City and for businesses to efficiently get their products to market.
9. Our city’s Community Wellness is a growing issue, including the priorities of affordable housing, serving the unsheltered citizens, substance issues, and associated crime and safety.
a. How can and should the three levels of government and community groups engage to create a holistic action plan to implement. This is not about jurisdiction, but vision and leadership.
Absolutely, community wellness, safety, and poverty reduction are huge priorities in the Kevin Klein for Mayor campaign. If we don’t make the city safer and healthier, then it will be difficult to attract new residents and retain current ones.
Statistics Canada data shows over 29,000 people left the province (mostly from Winnipeg) over the past 4 years.
If residents, especially the vibrant youth, keep on leaving the city then the local economy and local businesses will undergo immense hardship. We must admit that this is an issue and take steps to restore Winnipeg to the “Chicago of the North” as it was once called, through building opportunities for the growth and development of hard-working residents (investing in people) while ensuring the community is safe and healthy for their families.
There are many aspects to attracting and retaining residents such as improving community safety, making the city greener and cleaner, adding parks and recreation infrastructure, and supporting local cultural events. I have strongly advocated for these aspects as a Councillor and will continue to do so as Mayor.
The City and Council must be willing to work together with all levels of government, and all stakeholders including residents, poverty reduction experts, and local business leaders. I have tried to pursue this objective as a Councillor and will have more influence over directing it as the Mayor.
The link below is a frank conversation I had on this early in 2021 with Jamil Mahood - Executive Director of the Main Street Project - on overall poverty reduction strategies:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpYLGpKzsbc - Main Street Project, poverty reduction
I have also taken steps and made a motion to increase the accessibility of those experiencing assaults and violence to attend City Council meetings anonymously, so that we can give them a voice, learn from them and find solutions directly from those impacted. See this motion here:
https://www.kevinklein.ca/post/providing-victims-safe-access - Accessible and Anonymous Council meetings for assault survivors
There is a solution to these poverty and homelessness issues. It is through collaborative teamwork towards commonly agreed on poverty reduction goals.
As I mentioned in my campaign launch speech, I plan to establish an inclusive advisory group consisting of all stakeholders to drive a multi-faceted approach to poverty reduction and improvements to community safety and health.
We – the public service, business leaders, poverty experts, and residents will adopt a shared vision and a shared sense of responsibility to building a better Winnipeg.
10. Briefly, in addition to the above, what are your priorities as mayor, regarding the health, prosperity, and future of the city?
There are many other policy objectives included in my platform (which may or not be released in full by the time this MHCA letter is published). The policy objectives include:
a. addressing sustainable City planning and development
b. transparent and accountable taxation and City finances
c. New opportunities to attract and retain residents and businesses
d. Improvements to infrastructure management processes and infrastructure spending – especially for large projects such as Bridge and Overpass Rehabilitation and Sewer Work projects
e. Several plans to address community safety, transit safety, road/cyclist safety, and poverty reduction
f. Addressing fiscal issues within the police and fire/paramedic service
g. Large changes and modernization of City management practices, transparency and accountability of governance, and fiscal management processes
There are also several key policies planned to be announced on active transportation, fleet electrification, nature and greenspace protections, recreation, and building a cleaner (less litter and needles) City.
You can learn more about my campaign by watching the campaign launch speech in full or in sections at my YouTube page:
To conclude, as Mayor I commit to working with the construction industry to advance Winnipeg’s infrastructure to a modern and sustainable state.
I will work in collaboration with the many industry stakeholders, residents, and subject matter experts to set Winnipeg on the path to being an internationally recognized City for its innovative cold weather construction and infrastructure management practices. I support the election request of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA), in particular the development of a new strategic transportation infrastructure management plan and, with high importance, the establishment of a Design Specification and Resource Management Committee which is an excellent suggestion of the MHCA.
I encourage members of the MHCA to review the contents of the attached letter, review my election platform once released in its entirety, and review my stances on a wide range of issues as found at my website and on my YouTube page:
Thank you for engaging in this election and I look forward to the support from the various members, stakeholders, and employees aligned with the MHCA.
Thank you – Chi-Miigwetch – Merci,
Kevin E. Klein
Candidate for Mayor of Winnipeg 2022
Winnipeg City Councillor serving Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood